6/30/2013

Thoughts On A Sunday

The 'extreme' summer weather continues to cause problems here in New Hampshire. Between the high humidity and a series of showers and thundershowers, the usual outdoor chores and work activities have been curtailed. The air-conditioners at The Manse have been running 24/7 in order to help dry out the air inside.

It's been so humid that even without the constant threat of showers drying laundry out on a clothesline has not been possible. With relatively dry conditions it takes about an hour or two for laundry to dry on the line. With it being as humid as it is, it can take four or more hours, if it dries at all. Because of this I've had to haul all of our washing to the local laundromat to get it dry. (The Official Weekend Pundit Clothes Drier is kaput.)

I haven't been able to adequately mow the yard at The Manse in two weeks, something I hope to accomplish some time later today, barring any late morning/early afternoon showers. I'm not the only one having problem with mowing, or rather the activities after mowing. Some of the local farmers have lost their first hay cutting due to the constant series of showers. (After hay has been mowed it has to be raked and baled within a couple of days otherwise it loses much of its nutritional value. Wet hay can't be baled or it will turn moldy.) Farms mowed hay in anticipation of some good weather, but the weather didn't cooperate and all that hay is now only good for mulching. It doesn't help that the first cutting is usually the best for feed hay, with subsequent cuttings later in the summer being coarser and less appetizing to livestock.

From what the Weather GuysTM have been saying we're going to be stuck with this pattern for the coming week.

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By way of Maggie's Farm comes this: Health Insurance May Not Make Us Healthier.

States Dr. Joy Bliss, “Why would it? Does fire insurance prevent fires? The main purpose of medical insurance is as bankruptcy insurance.”

Indeed.

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Also by way of Maggie's Farm comes a look at the rise of classical education.

This is no surprise to any of us who have been paying attention to the quality (or lack thereof) of our public school systems. Our public schools are, for the most part, mediocre institutions of learning, having been dismantled by the Progressives over the past 4 decades or so. They are less about actual education and more about indoctrinating yet another generation in long-discredited social theories and soul-crushing conformity to an ideology that ignores human nature.

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I find the dual standard being applied to Paula Deen and Alec Baldwin to be yet another indication that those on the Left get a pass on the most outrageous behavior (Baldwin's anti-gay slur on Twitter) versus the outrage from the Left about something Deen said almost  three decades ago.

Baldwin's acting career is unlikely to be affected by his intolerant rants, but Deen has seen over $12.5 million in endorsement deals turn to vapor and her show pulled from the air.

People make mistakes. Deen's took place almost 30 years ago and she has apologized profusely about the use of the racial slur and her ignorance about her attitudes back then, yet her empire is in ruins. Baldwin continues to make them and all we get from the Left is a “boys will be boys” response.

The Left continues to show its intolerance of anything or anyone that isn't 'them'.

Glenn Reynolds also has some takes on this issue, with one bit of advice for Paula Deen submitted by a reader that Reynolds wholeheartedly endorses, that being “Maybe she should self-publish and look to other media ventures and outlets.” As Reynolds remarks, Glenn Beck did just that makes more money than Oprah.

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We've known this since February 2009.

Chris Christie slams Obama, saying “He can't figure out how to lead.”

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Add this to the list of crimes committed by the Watermelon Greens.

A bird not seen in the UK for 22 years is killed by a wind turbine.

The push for wind energy has been showing one of the major unintended consequences, that being the wholesale slaughter of birds and bats. What did the proponents expect when you have huge blades moving though the air with a lot of force and speed? Did they really think they wouldn't kill flying creatures, great and small?

This is one idea that looks great on paper, but the realities are brutally clear – wind turbines kill wildlife.

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Bogie tells us about a study President Obama commissioned to have the CDC perform a study on guns, hoping to prove how deadly they are and to give him a reason to seek draconian gun control laws. But as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

The study didn't provide the results Obama expected, showing that bucket drownings are far more common than mass shootings, guns are used for self-defense hundreds of thousands of times each year (that total includes just showing a firearm, not necessarily firing them), and suicides account for a very large percentage of gun deaths. (I could go into some detail about the last, but some studies suggest that even if guns disappeared tomorrow, many of those who would have used guns to kill themselves will find other means to off themselves.)

FAIL.

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Something I saw at our local discount shopping big box store had me doing a double take.

While making my way down the aisle that had whole bean coffee (I like the Eight O'Clock Columbian dark roast) I passed by pallets of maple syrup and maple-flavored syrups. One pallet caught my eye. The half-gallon jugs were labeled thus:

100% Natural Maple Syrup

ORGANIC

Umm, if it's 100% natural maple syrup it is by definition 'organic'. Sugaring (making maple syrup) does not use trees that are artificially fertilized or use pesticides. The trees grow in a forest, not in nicely cultivated rows like apple orchards.

I couldn't find an explanation of the 'ORGANIC' label on the jugs, though I may have an explanation of my own: the sugarers used firewood rather than propane to run their evaporators. That's about the only thing I can think of, though I do not believe that meets the criteria for being able to label the maple syrup as 'ORGANIC'. I have seen this ploy used in another area, but it was meant as a joke.

BeezleBub's boss, Farmer Andy, listed cord wood for sale. On the sign it said “Organically grown, solar-dried”. Again, I don't know of anyone who will go out into the woods and fertilize trees, so by definition the trees are 'organically grown'. Once cut and split, the cord wood was piled and left to dry, hence the 'solar-dried'. For all I know he charged extra for the premium wood even though it came off the same pile as the non-premium wood. (I wouldn't have blamed him if he had.)

Maybe it plays to the gullibility of the 'snob' shopper.

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When it comes to the gun debate, it's all about emotions and not about fact. It doesn't help that the anti-gunners really know very little about guns or those owning them.

...the reason we can’t have a rational gun debate is because the anti-gun side pre-supposes that their pro-gun opponents must first accept that guns are bad in order to have a discussion about guns in the first place. Before we even start the conversation, we’re the bad guys and we have to admit it. Without accepting that guns are bad and supplicating themselves to the anti-gunner, the pro-gunner can’t get a word in edgewise, and is quickly reduced to being called a murderer, or a low, immoral and horrible human being.

--snip--

But when it comes to the gun issue, gun expertise is completely irrelevant to the anti-gunner — people who probably have never fired a gun or even touched one in real life, and whose only experience with guns is what they’ve seen in movies or read about in bastions of (un)balanced, hyper-liberal journalism, like Mother Jones. That a pro-gun person might actually know a lot about their hobby or profession doesn’t stand up against the histrionic cries of the anti-gunner.

How can we “gun people” honestly be expected to come to the table with anti-gunners when anti-gunners are willfully stupid about guns, and openly hate, despise and ridicule those of us who own them?

Heh.

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And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where we're trying to enjoy summer, the weather isn't exactly cooperating, and where countless lawns are waiting to be mowed.

6/29/2013

Fallout From The Voting Rights Act SCOTUS Decision

Now that some of the brouhaha has died down from the Supreme Court decision that struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, I felt it was time to add my two cents worth.

Once the decision was announced, the wailing from the Left was deafening, with some claiming we would see a return to the early 1960's in regards to minorities being able to vote throughout the South. What this tells me is that too many of those folks are still living 50 years in the past. It also means that far too many of them didn't understand the decision, or worst, chose not to understand it because it didn't fit their narrative. It appears their reactions were all emotional fluff and bluster, something I've come to expect from the Left.

Never mind that the decision leveled the playing field, removing restrictions that applied to only a few states, states that no longer required them because voting parity had been attained years ago. States not covered under Section 4 of the Act have unbalanced voter turnouts that rival those of the states now out from under DOJ review. Yet the Left, mostly from those states where minority voter turnout is poor compared to the South, see only through the lenses of the past while ignoring the problems in their own back yards. Again, that is not unexpected.

The Left doesn't really seek parity because if it is attained, their raison d'être ceases to exist and their long running 'empathy politics' will run out of steam, giving them little to do.

One other thing I noticed was the Left's use of the race card, something they should stop using because it's over its limit. When the Left claims that anything they don't like that frees the very people they say the want to 'help' is caused by racism, then the claims of racism starts losing their luster and instead become cliché and people, except the Left, start ignoring it. The only racists still plying their trade in politics is the Left because deep down they do not believe minorities, at least the black and Hispanic minorities, are capable of getting ahead without their help. If a member of their favorite minorities manages to get ahead without their help, they are ridiculed by the Left and labeled as race traitors because it's obvious they 'sold out to The Man'. It's a lose-lose situation, one created by the Left. If that isn't racist, I don't know what is.

OK, I got a little off track, but racism did play a part in the Voting Rights Act, legislation that was created to minimize its effect on the free exercise of voting rights. The removal of a section of the law that was no longer germane and that had long violated the 14th Amendment does not signal a return to the Bad Old Days of Jim Crow, the Left's claims otherwise to the contrary.

6/23/2013

Thoughts On A Sunday

Today was one of those days when the weather starts out looking as if the entire day is going to be a bust – cloudy, rainy, and damp – which usually precludes getting anything done outside. No mowing the lawn or hanging freshly washed clothing out on the line or doing more work on The Boat.

But there were stretches of sunshine during the day, starting during the late morning. While the sunny weather did allow me to dry some of the last of the laundry, the lawn was too wet to mow, meaning I'll have to get to it during the week. Unfortunately it appears we're going to be in an HHH (Hot, Hazy, and Humid) stretch of weather, meaning afternoon/early evening thundershowers are likely all week.

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It's hard to believe the year is almost half gone. Where does the time go?

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The Barrister has a post about one of the most useful tools I've ever used: the Come-Along.

I've used it over the years do all kinds of things from moving stuck vehicles (usually up to their axles in mud), to putting tension on not-so-big trees I'm cutting down to help make sure they fall in the desired direction, to pairing them up to move a new steam furnace down a set of basement stairs, to moving a barn onto a new foundation, to truing up a garage, and everything in between.

There are some that use a steel cable and others that use a chain. I've used both, but the most common one is usually use a cable. For the most part the body is made of stamped aluminum or small gauge steel, but I've seen a few very heavy duty models using forged steel housings and levers. The chain come-along is usually heavy-duty, being able to handle a ton-and-a-half or more.

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Are the wheels coming off the Obama Administration machine? According to George Will, the answer is yes and it was quite apparent during his visit to Berlin.

Obama’s vanity is a wonder of the world that never loses its power to astonish, but really: Is everyone in his orbit too lost in raptures of admiration to warn him against delivering a speech soggy with banalities and bromides in a city that remembers John Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” and Ronald Reagan’s “Tear down this wall”?

It doesn't help that his charisma has fled, assuming he ever really had any that wasn't bolstered by a fawning media. Now that they see he is nothing more than a bad retread of Jimmy Carter – and a Chicago version of a bad Jimmy Carter retread at that - more of that formerly fawning media has been turning on him.

(H/T Instapundit)

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Bogie has lost one of her feline family members, Shadow, who passed away at her home.

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AJ over at the Strata-sphere tells us how climate models are proving there is no CO2 driven warming. AJ isn't saying there isn't any warming, but puts it into perspective, looking at the Little Ice Age temperatures, which were some of the coldest temps for almost 10,000 years. Instead AJ believes we are returning to the temperatures seen during the Medieval and Roman Warm Periods, periods that may reflect more 'normal' temps.

As the saying goes, Read The Whole Thing.

(H/T Pirate's Cove)

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I have to agree with Assistant Village Idiot on this one: The past is a different country.

Some changes are brand new, others are a recapture or recasting of an older idea. It was a point of particular importance for CS Lewis that modern readers have this drummed into their heads.  Our lefts and rights, our blues and reds, our "spiritual" people and skeptics are not having the same arguments people had even fifty years ago, let alone 500. We pretend we understand, but we are largely making this up.

The issues then are not the issues now. Even if we use the same terms, they are defined differently which in turn affects the debate of any issues we're addressing today.

Or something like that.

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Here's a blast from the past from out of the Weekend Pundit archives, that discusses the Yankee Attitude.

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“President Asterisk” indeed.

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And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where true summer weather has arrived, the lawns still need mowing, and where the summerfolk are enjoying themselves.

6/22/2013

So Safe It's Killing Us With Boredom

There's been a long term trend that seems to be accelerating, that being government control of the most mundane and commonsensical items and actions in our lives. All of this is done in the name of 'safety', with the reasoning being “If it only prevents one injury or saves one life it's worth it!” This item or action can be something we as humans have been dealing with for generations but that the government now sees as a major risk to life, limb, or the environment. The government is trying to make life risk free...something that is inherently impossible. But that won't stop them from trying.

Some of this can be attributed to the rampant “Do Something!” mentality of those who want Big Government to be our Mommies and Daddies. Some can be attributed to the arrogance of our 'betters' who think we need to be protected from ourselves because we're too stupid while at the same time providing them with more control over every aspect of our lives. Some can also be attributed to the overbearing trial lawyers forcing manufacturers to include Cover Your Ass safety features and labeling because some people are just too stupid to use their products safely and this buys them some limited protection from those same stupid people injuring themselves when they misuse the product.

What brought this about was something simple – trying to gas up the Official Weekend Pundit Lawnmower. The gas cans we've been able to buy over the past few years aren't the same as the ones we've been able to buy for the past few generations. They have airtight valves and no vents, with catches that must be moved before we can move a handle that opens those valves. Sometimes it can be a real pain to move those catches, making it difficult to use the gas can. It most cases it requires two hands release the catch and press down on the handle. And when we finally get it open there is a rush of air either into or out of the gas can. Then when trying to pour gas into the tank of a lawnmower, snowblower, or other gas powered tool, the fuel flow is poor, tending to gush then pause, gush then pause, because there's no vent to allow air to flow into the gas can. This in turn can cause gas to splash outside the fuel tank. How can anyone think this is safe?

Remember that rush of air I mentioned when the valve was opened? That is a symptom of a poor design, meaning that while the intent was to prevent gas fumes from escaping from the gas can while it sits in the garage, it also doesn't allow the pressure inside the can to equalize with the pressure outside. One more than one occasion over the past few years I've seen our gas can either swelling as if it were going to burst or collapsing as if it had been crushed. Only by opening the airtight valve does the pressure equalize. And if the tank is swelling, all that opening the valve does is vent those environmentally dangerous gas fumes into the air. That defeats the purpose, doesn't it? So you have 'safe' gas cans that are neither environmentally friendly or functionally useful.

There. Two whole paragraphs just about gas cans, and gas cans are the least of the irritatingly 'safe' products foisted upon us by our nanny-statist government. There are plenty of others about which I can go into lengthy diatribes. But I can list a number of goverment-mandated or CYA 'safety' things I find quite annoying as well as unneeded.

- Lawnmowers, specifically push mowers, no longer have throttles and run at only two speeds: on and off. That also ties in with the engine brake that causes the engine to stop when you release the mower handgrips.

- When the engine brake no longer works the only way you can shut the engine off is to pull the spark plug wire while it is running at full speed.

- Warning labels up the wazoo about not putting your hands and feet under the mower deck while the engine is running, and those labels are in 8 different languages!

- Warnings about not using various electrical appliances while taking a bath or shower. One of my favorite such warning labels was seen on an electric blanket. It begs the question “How many people take a blanket, electric or otherwise, into the bath or shower when they bathe?”

- Warnings about taking a sleeping aid, like Ambien or Lunesta, and then operating heavy machinery or driving a vehicle. Other than drug abusers, who does that?

- An old one that no longer exists, but still sticks in my mind: Ignition interlocks that wouldn't allow a car engine to start unless the driver's seatbelt was fastened. It may have sounded great on paper, but it actually caused more problems than it solved. For the most part people would leave the seatbelt retracted but buckled and would sit on them rather than use it. This was particularly true of people who were constantly in and out of their vehicles, like police officers, for example. If the interlock failed, the engine wouldn't start and you had a dead car. As I recall this happened a lot.

- Another old one that no longer exists: The 85MPH speedometer. It was the brilliant idea of Joan Claybrook, head of the National Transportation and Safety Administration during the Carter Administration. She figured that if the speedometers didn't go past 85 MPH, people wouldn't speed. Yeah. Right.

- Tying in with the 85MPH speedometer was the National Maximum Speed Limit, with the highest speeds allowed on all highways, state or federal, set to 55MPH. The reasoning was that it saved lives, but traffic statistics proved that to be a wrong assumption. It was also the most ignored law since Prohibition and was finally killed by Congress during the Reagan Administration.

- Numerous toys were deemed too dangerous to use and were either banned or killed off by trial lawyers. One of my favorites: Lawn Darts, also know as Lawn Jarts or Yard Darts.

That's just a few of the lengthy list I could have put up showing how over the years government (and trial lawyers) have gotten it wrong in regards to 'safety'.

What it all comes down to is that for the most part people are smart enough to use various everyday items safely and responsibly. Those that aren't either don't care, are chemically impaired, or just not too bright and don't have a lick of common sense. (Not that it's all that common these days.)

There was one of those eCards I had posted here some time ago that dealt with warning labels and safeguards that certainly made me think. It stated, “Maybe we should remove all of the warning labels and let Nature take its course.” I have to state that as I've gotten older, I've come to think that it might not be such a bad idea. After all, every time we come up with something that is supposedly foolproof, the fools figure out a way around it and still injure themselves or others. You can only make things safe enough to a point. After that all of the safety features start interfering with the function of the item and the item becomes useless, or worse, dangerous in a different manor unforeseen by the nannies.

6/21/2013

The State Of Our Schools

This post started out as part of this past Sunday's Thoughts On A Sunday, but I realized it deserved a spot all its own. It was related to a post I linked from David Starr and the problems with STEM education in our schools. While I did add my own two cents to David's observations, this kind of wrote itself as I was venting about what I saw as a problem with the school system here in my home town, a problem that exists all across America.

One of the things we hear constantly from the education lobby is that we need more teachers and lower student-to-teacher ratios. Both claims are wrong.

What we need are better teachers. If we have better teachers we don't need minuscule student-to-teacher ratios. At the moment our education system is set up to foster mediocrity, specifically in the quality of our teachers. What do we expect? We get mediocre schools with mediocre results and kids with mediocre educations. For the most part our schools are union shops and unions tend to suppress exceptionalism and force mediocrity. (Take it from one who used to belong to a union. It was something that always galled me – the institutional mediocrity.) I have seen this mediocrity in the school system in my home town. That's scary.

A lot of people claim our town has a great school system, and it is compared to a lot of the surrounding towns. That isn't saying much because it is still nowhere near what it should be considering how much money we spend on our school system every year – just under $17,000, about $4,000 more than the state average and between $2,000 and $7,000 more than the top 10 school systems in the state. It is towards the upper end of the mediocrity scale, meaning it isn't nearly as mediocre as other schools, but it's nothing to which we should aspire. For the money we spend we should have one of the best school systems in the state, but we don't. When our schools cut back on or drop some of the staples – courses that were at one time important, like Shop and Home Economics to name two – and replace them with subjects that have little to do with preparing students for real life, then the schools are in trouble. When I was in school these classes started in middle school...excuse me, junior high school, and it was mandatory. Of course I grew up before sexual equality became the norm and all the boys took Shop and all the girls took Home Ec.

Today all kids should take both because they teach them skills they will use throughout their entire lives regardless of what they end up doing for a living. I cannot count how many times I've come across young adults who couldn't swing a hammer, use a screwdriver, replace a light socket on a lamp, change a flat tire, or prepare a meal that didn't come from out of the freezer and into the microwave. They have no idea how the simplest things we use every day work and they have to call someone else to fix things for them. Those in our society may have access to knowledge our ancestors would find amazing, but as a whole our citizens don't know how to do things our grandparents and even our parents took for granted, and I'm not talking about arcane skills like shoeing horses or blacksmithing. But I digress...

Not all that long ago there was an effort made to move our school system towards what is called the International Baccalaureate program, an education program first proposed to UNESCO in 1948. While its goal was to offer an interesting perspective to education and an internationally approved curriculum, it has devolved into more of a feelgood program that seems bent more on fostering an educational environment that promotes socialist ideals rather than courses of study that are supposed to prepare our kids to fend for themselves in the real world. The more I learned the less I liked the idea and a lot of parents felt the same way. For the time being the IB is dead in our town. But that doesn't mean there aren't those within the school system that will keep trying to push it upon our kids.

I could go on and on about the problems with the school system in my town and schools across America, but I think you get the idea. It's time to take our schools back from the unions and the education lobby, to tell the Department of Education to go take a hike, and to start teaching our children what they need to know in order to make their way in the real world.

6/18/2013

Pathological Altruism - A Follow Up

As a follow up to Sunday's link on Pathological Altruism there's this video with James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal talking about some of the comments made about his opinion piece on the subject.

6/17/2013

Why Is The New Hampshire AG Going After John O'Keefe?

As if we didn't have enough problems with government and our freedoms, it appears that the Powers-The-Be in our state capitol have decided that James O'Keefe's Project Veritas exposure of New Hampshire's weak anti-voter fraud efforts some time ago, showing how easy it was to commit voter fraud in the Granite State, was criminal. It was these actions by O'Keefe that helped get a Voter ID law passed in New Hampshire by a GOP super-majority legislature, which also overrode the Democrat governor's veto of the bill.

While O'Keefe did not vote and had no intention of voting – he merely asked for a ballot under the name of a dead registered voter – New Hampshire Attorney General Richard Head decided that O'Keefe committed a crime. This in itself was bad enough. But in their search for O'Keefe they dragged in one of New Hampshire's better known conservative bloggers, Skip Murphy of GraniteGrok, appearing at his home with a criminal subpoena for O'Keefe. (Why they thought O'Keefe was there or that Skip had knowledge of O'Keefe's activities is a mystery.)

Since then, O'Keefe has confronted the AG, asking him questions the AG apparently didn't want to answer.

But one question that has bothered me since I read the accounts of what happened:

Why is the AG’s office building “dossiers” on conservative bloggers in the state?

This smacks too much of some of the tactics being used by the Obama Administration. Has the Chicago Political Machine virus infected Granite State Democrats?

6/16/2013

Thoughts On A Sunday

The roar of motorcycles has filled the air since Friday as the 90th Laconia Motorcycle Rally Week finished out. Though the rally runs for 9 days, the bulk of the bikers show up starting on Thursday and leave today.

I can say from personal observation that there appeared to be a good turnout. It helped that the weather over the weekend was superb, while the first weekend and a good portion of the week had wet weather which dampened the initial turnout.

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BeezleBub and Horse Girl attended the Trace Adkins concert at Meadowbrook Farm last night. He got home quite late so I don't know it went. The night before it was the Charlie Daniels Band and Willie Nelson, a concert that had a huge turnout. (It wouldn't surprise me to find out that a large number of visiting bikers attended both concerts.)

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In light of yesterday's post about Sarah Palin, this one seems appropriate.

Palin blasted the NSA, saying it “couldn't find two pot-smoking deadbeat Bostonians with a hotline to terrorist central in Chechnya,” despite the fact that it “built an apparatus to sneak into all the good guys communications...”

Of course now that Snowden has blown the whistle on the NSA's efforts, the jihadists are taking measures to make it even more difficult to track their communications.

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If any of you out there still doubt that Detroit is a terminally ill Democrat-created basket case, there's this post by Moneyrunner at The Virginian that lays out the case line by line.

With 40% of its remaining residents wanting to leave the city, I find it incredible that most of those 40% haven't a clue as to why their city is such a hell hole. They can't seem to make the connection between how their city was governed (or mis-governed) and the conditions that exist in that once proud city. As such, it's likely that any place else they move to will suffer from their ignorance.

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As Eric the Viking notes, the White House will remain closed to tours because the President's visit to Africa will cost between $60 and $100 million.

Frankly, there are better things to spend that money on that will give a better return. Better yet, don't spend it at all because we don't really have it to begin with.

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David Starr offers his take on Obama's move to consolidate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics) education programs, something David responds to with “Wow. All these cuts and we spend more money.”

STEM education is something the education system in America has been failing to do well for some time. As David notes, waiting until high school to push STEM is putting the emphasis in the wrong place because most students decide what course of study to follow in middle school. Boring classes taught by someone who doesn't really understand the subject themselves, who has no passion for the subject, turns off the kids who might have otherwise chosen a STEM course of study.

If you're going to fix a problem, better to apply the fix at the beginning rather than trying to pick up the pieces after the fact. It takes a lot less effort.

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I have to add my own two cents to David's piece linked just above.

The education lobby is always screaming that teachers are underpaid. OK, by who's standards? I have no problem with merit pay for teachers, meaning great teachers get paid more than average teachers and a lot more than poor teachers. But the teachers unions work hard to prevent that, their public protestations about their support for the idea to the contrary. In the end all that helps are the mediocre and the incompetent teachers, which in turn helps no one else, least of all our kids.

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And speaking of schools and education, Stacy McCain points us to the disaster that is the Chicago Public School system and how it is imploding due to a $1 billion deficit. (That's 'billion' with a 'b'.)

As we are constantly asking, “How's that 'Hope and Change' workin' out for ya?”

(H/T Pirate's Cove)

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It's becoming increasingly clear that George Zimmerman may have a tough time getting a fair trial in his home state of Florida. At least one potential juror tried to lie his way onto the jury until it was found that he was a “justice for Trayvon” advocate.

If another such 'juror' is found, I think it would be in the best interest of Mr. Zimmerman's defense counsel to ask for a change of venue as it will be clear it will be difficult, if not impossible to empanel an unbiased jury in that jurisdiction.

As Sister Toldjah writes:

I’ve been actively involved in debates about this case on social media sites since the story first broke and I can honestly tell you I have not come across a more fanatical, crazed, militant, ill-informed, obtuse, juvenile, ignorant group of people in my life, and that’s saying a lot. Facts mean absolutely, 100% NOTHING to these people, and the conspiracy theories they come up with rival anything the left or right could come up with on any number of issues.

It hasn't helped matters that the only pictures most have seen of Trayvon Martin were taken when he was a few years younger and not as he was the year he died. If those photos had been circulated by the media I doubt there would have been nearly as much outcry and verbal lynching of George Zimmerman.

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I had hoped to do a post about what is being called pathological altruism, a form of altruism that ends up causing far more harm than good. But Tom Bowler beat me to it and, quite frankly, did a far better job than I might have.

There have been a number of regimes that had as their basis, altruism. But the pathological side of that altruism drove them to commit atrocities, all in the name of the common good. All we have to do is look at the old Soviet Union and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, just to name two.

However, if science is truly to serve as an ultimately altruistic enterprise, then science must examine not only the good but also the harm that can arise from our feelings of altruism and empathetic caring for others. In support of this idea, it is important to note that during the twentieth century, tens of millions individuals were killed under despotic regimes that rose to power through appeals to altruism (106–110). The study of pathological altruism, in other words, is not a minor, inconsequential offshoot of the study of altruism but instead is a topic of overwhelming scientific and public importance.

Personally I prefer Heinlein's view on altruism: “Altruism is based upon self-deception, the root of all evil.”

Indeed.

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And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the rainy weather has returned, the bikers have left, and the sound of thousands of motorcycles has faded into the distance until next year.

6/15/2013

What If Palin Was President?

By way of the House of Eratosthenes comes this post by the Virginian that posits: “If Palin Had Become President.”

It's an interesting alternate history exercise, predicting what would be different if Sarah Plain had been President rather the Obama.

Remember the 2008 election? Democrats in and out of the media told us that McCain was old and it was possible that he could die in office, leaving Sarah Palin as president. The horror!

Well imagine that McCain had not self-destructed, become president and died, leaving Palin as president.

Beginning on day one:

(I've included just a few of my favorites because the list length. If you want to see the whole list go to the original post. - dce)

Palin would not have dismissed the Black Panther intimidation lawsuit that the government had already won.
Palin would not have seized two auto companies and give them to her cronies in and out of the UAW.
Palin would not have tried to block Boeing from building a factory in South Carolina as a gift to her union buddies in Washington state.
Palin would not have shipped thousands of guns to Mexican drug cartels so that they could be found next to the bodies of murdered Mexicans and American agents.
Palin would not have passed a national health care bill that is a 2000 page “train wreck” and that threatens to destroy America’s health care system.
Palin would not have spent a trillion dollars to prop up state and local government employees when private sector employees were losing millions of jobs.
Palin would not have allowed her ambassador to Libya to be slaughtered, along with three US service members, and told would-be rescuers to stand down.
Palin’s appointed officials would not be lying to congress and the American people when they are not invoking the Fifth Amendment against incrimination.
Finally, Palin would have taken responsibility for the things that happened while she was President instead of telling us that she only read about it in this morning’s newspaper.

I can think of a few of my own to add to the list, such as:

Palin would have reined in the EPA and got it back to its original purpose.

Palin would abolish the Department of Education, a multibillion dollar boondoggle that has little to do with educating our children.

Palin would have moved to abolish public employee unions, undoing the damage done by JFK and reminding government employees that they are civil servants, not civil masters.

I could go on...and on and on, but I think you get the idea.

6/14/2013

Bitchy Resting Face

Do you suffer from this malady?



(H/T TV Week)

6/13/2013

Is The Fair Tax Closer To Becoming A Reality?

Surprisingly, the Washington Post reports about an ad buy made by a Fair Tax advocate group.

The timing couldn't be better considering the IRS scandal still unfolding in Washington. As the group's ad states, this is “our best chance ever to shutter the IRS...”

For those not familiar with the Fair Tax, it is a national sales tax that will replace both the federal income tax and FICA, the idea being that it will be revenue neutral. The tax will be applied to the purchase of new goods and services for personal consumption at the final point of purchase. (That means it is assessed only when the good or service reaches the consumer and not along the way like a Value Added Tax.) It won't apply to used goods.

The argument made by those opposed to the tax state that it would unfairly burden the poor and give the rich a break, but this argument shows that they don't understand the scope of the tax and how it will be implemented. One of the features of the tax is what is called a prebate, system that removes the burden of the Fair Tax from the poor.

Under the FairTax, all Americans consume what they see as their necessities of life free of tax. While permitting no exemptions, the FairTax (HR25/S122) provides a monthly universal prebate to ensure that each family unit can consume tax free at or beyond the poverty level, with the overall effect of making the FairTax progressive in application. There is no marriage penalty as the couple gets twice the amount that a single adult receives.

Reading the comments to the WaPo article it is evident that many haven't figured out that the Fair Tax includes no loopholes and that the wealthy will pay far more than everyone else. After all, they buy more than everyone else. But these folks still seem to think the rich need to pay even more, something that has been programmed into them over their lifetimes. They either will not or cannot understand the realities of the Fair Tax because it's too simple for them. They assume there will be loopholes that will let the wealthy avoid paying the tax, not understanding that the wealthy already have loopholes that help them minimize what they have to pay.

Another argument is that the wealthy will be paying the same taxes as a janitor, but I think they're confusing tax rate with taxes paid. Why should anyone have to pay a higher tax rate than someone else? The argument is that it wouldn't be 'progressive' (something I has always interpreted as 'regressive'). It must all boil down to the belief that the wealthy should pay every penny they make to the government because, after all, they stole it from the poor, the so-called Zero Sum Theory of wealth. (But not one of our Progressive brethren has been able to explain to me how one steals from the poor. The just know that if someone became wealthy it was because someone else had to become poor. Do I really need to go into the fallacy of that belief?)

What chance does the Fair Tax have of becoming reality? To be honest I have to say it's slim. But it does have a better chance than it did before the IRS scandal broke into the public view.

6/11/2013

Ignorant And Proud Of It

It appears Brent's post about the “Idiot Vote” struck a cord with someone and we ended up with an Instalanch. (Thanks, Glenn!)

What Brent linked certainly resonated with me as on more than one occasion I have had to contend with idiots like that – the willfully ignorant – who believe the most unbelievable tripe and no amount of facts or evidence will dissuade them from their belief about things profound and trivial.

What's scary is that a lot of those same folk vote and do so with their ignorance untouched. How is it folks like that can make an informed decision about anything? (The answer is that they can't, but that hasn't stopped them from voting, or worse, from expressing their opinion in a manner that is both annoying and sanctimonious at the same time.)

They things they don't know or that they 'know' but just aren't true would fill several libraries. Ironically, these same folks are proud of their ignorance and they make sure everyone knows it.

We are doomed.

6/09/2013

Thoughts On A Sunday

We managed to survive the rains of Tropical Storm Andrea, seeing as they weren't as heavy as we and the Weather GuysTM thought they would be, at least here in New Hampshire. Pretty much all the rain was gone by sunrise on Saturday, though the clouds hung around the rest of the day allowing the sun to peek out now and then.

The timing was auspicious as the 90th Laconia Motorcycle Week started this weekend and will run through next Sunday. About 300,000 motorcycle enthusiasts are expected to visit over the nine day rally.

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I have always had a pretty good ear when it comes to accents. That might be because I grew up around people from different parts of the country, have lived in a number of different states, as well as having spent my formative years around people who spoke English as a second language (including the WP Mom's parents, who were from Scandinavia).

By way of Maggie's Farm comes this series of maps that show how Americans speak differently from each other depending upon where they live in the US.

This is not news to me nor should it be to anyone who watches TV or movies. Then again, TV and movies have lessened the regional differences in the pronunciations of various words due to the wide exposure, though I doubt they will ever go away entirely.

Regional vernacular has always been an interest of mine for many of the same reasons I listed above. It helps that there's a Dictionary of American Regional English to help decipher the meanings of common words that have different uses and definitions depending upon where you live. One of my favorite definitions has dealt with the words used to describe deli sandwiches. Here in northern New England and eastern Massachusetts it's called a submarine, or “sub”. In Connecticut it's a grinder. In Pennsylvania it's a hoagie. In New Yawk, it's a hero - “A 'hero' ain't nothin' but a sandwich.”

Looking over the maps I see what appear to be errors, probably the biggest being the word for a carbonated soft drink. It shows that in eastern Massachusetts, particularly around the greater Boston area, the word used is “soda”, but from my experience the most used word is “tonic”. I've also heard it used in parts of southern New Hampshire as well, usually border towns. This error could be because of the granularity (the smallest sample areas) of the maps is too coarse.

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Here in New Hampshire there's a push by the governor and the Democrat majority House to expand Medicaid coverage. Governor Maggie Hassan (D) seems to think the federal government will keep its promise to fund the program in perpetuity, with 100% funding for the first three years and 90% thereafter. But as we have learned from past experience, it's likely the feds will renege on that promise and lay most of the burden on the state a few years down the line. That's what happened with special education, which left New Hampshire and a lot of other states in an education funding bind when the feds pulled the plug on funding.

To trust that Congress will continue to fund something that will take an ever increasing bite out of the already bloated and deficit-ridden federal budget is foolish. One has to wonder what the Democrats are smoking down in the state capitol.

As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” The only problem with being fooled twice is that it will force the state to pick up the slack once the feds bail out on funding. It doesn't help that Medicaid will be expanded to cover those who have never been covered under the program before, a byproduct of that steaming pile of manure called ObamaCare.

One has to ask why Granite State Democrats keep buying the BS that the Obama Administration keeps shoveling despite evidence and history that shows Obama and his cronies will put the screws to us? Are they truly that blind?

It seems that they are.

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Here are two related education posts, one that deals with what is coming to be called Waiter and Waitress Nation and the other showing the signs of the coming K-12 education implosion.

The first deals with the higher education bubble and the side effect that leads a lot of college grads to end up working in jobs far outside their field of study. Part of that is caused by too many students having chosen majors that did not prepare them for work in the real world while at the same time having to borrow outrageous amounts of money to pay for it all. A lot of those grads end up working as waiters and waitresses, something they could have done right out of high school rather than wasting four years and tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars before they became waiters and waitresses. When a fifth of the jobs created last month were restaurant jobs, that is not a good sign. Remember when Democrats slammed Bush for creating so-called McJobs during the last recession recovery? This time it's much worse and it belongs entirely to Obama. And this time there are also a lot more college grads with useless degrees in fields that have little prospect for jobs.

The second shows us how home-schooling children has been growing seven times faster than public education enrollment. Considering public schools have become more like indoctrination centers that fail to teach our kids what they need to know, is it any surprise more parents are opting out of public education and doing it themselves? Studies show that home-schooled children consistently outperform and outscore children in public schools. The performance imbalance between boys and girls is insignificant with home-schooled kids as compared to public schools. It's no wonder why more parents are going this route.

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One has to ask what has happened to America's entrepreneurial spirit as it isn't what it was even 10 years ago. The answer is simple: government is taxing and regulating it out of existence.

When government makes it increasingly difficult and expensive to start new businesses, fewer new businesses are created. Call it an economic version of “beatings will continue until morale improves.”

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And that's the (abbreviated) news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the roar of motorcycles can be heard day and night, good weather is here for a few days (except Monday, of course), and where...umm...something or other is happening somewhere else...yeah...that's it....really!

6/08/2013

How Government Student Loans Have Created The Higher Eduation Bubble

If you want to know what's caused college tuition to skyrocket while the quality of that education has declined, I can explain it in three words: Government Student Loans.

As money started flooding the 'market' for post-secondary education there was more money than there were seats for students. Like any inflationary factor, more money meant costs would go up for existing products, in this case college diplomas. That's what's happened, with the costs for college rising far faster than the rate of inflation.

What's worse is that college was seen as the only path to success. But we know that it isn't true. We've seen multitudes of college graduates working menial jobs, jobs they could have had without spending time and money in college. We've seen people who took a more traditional path to success, like the trades, who have done far better than their college educated counterparts.

Basically what we've been sold is a bill of goods that ensures nothing...other than huge college loan debt.

6/06/2013

This Scandal Is Different

As news about the IRS scandal continues to circulate, more than a few Democrats have tried to spin it by saying the IRS has done this before at the behest of a sitting president. More often than not Richard Nixon is mentioned as one who used the IRS to go after 'enemies'. Mentioned less often by Democrats are LBJ, JFK and FDR, all of whom used the IRS against their political adversaries. But as Peggy Noonan writes, those were different times and the targets weren't on the same level as those targeted by the IRS lately. This time around the IRS abuse was more blatant and cut a wider swath.

I got an email last night that had the effect of a clarifying conversation. It was from a smart friend who works in government. He understood the point I was trying to make about how the current IRS scandal is different from previous ones and more threatening to the American arrangement. I had written that this scandal isn’t a discrete event in which a president picks up a phone and tells someone in the White House to look into the finances of some steel industry executives, or to check out the returns of some guy on an enemies list.

But my friend got to the essence. He wrote, “The left likes to say, ‘Watergate was worse!’ Watergate was bad—don’t get me wrong. But it was elites using the machinery of government to spy on elites. . . . It’s something quite different when elites use the machinery of government against ordinary people. It’s a whole different ball game.”

--snip--

In previous IRS scandals it was the powerful abusing the powerful—a White House moving against prominent financial or journalistic figures who, because of their own particular status or the machineries at their disposal, could pretty much take care of themselves. A scandal erupts, there are headlines, and then people go on their way. The dreadful thing about this scandal, what makes it ominous, is that this is the elites versus regular citizens. It’s the mighty versus normal people. It’s the all-powerful directors of the administrative state training their eyes and moving on uppity and relatively undefended Americans.

It is this which makes Watergate seem like a mere small-time scandal in comparison to what has happened on Obama's watch. This time around it was ordinary American citizens who were targeted, people who had done no wrong with limited means to defend themselves or to seek redress from the very government that targeted them. The full weight of a corrupt government agency came down upon people who disagreed with the present administration. All of this was done in an effort to silence them.

It is this which stirs outrage and anger against the IRS and the Obama Administration. This scandal is different on many levels, the biggest of which was its scope and targets. Is it any wonder trust in government has reached its lowest level in decades?

6/05/2013

Neither Serf Or Vassal

If you don't believe the IRS acted improperly in regards to tax-exempt applications made by Tea Party or other non-Democrat groups, or that the IRS abuse was limited to only one office, listen to this testimony made by Becky Gerritson of Wetumpka, Alabama before the House Ways and Means Committee.



As she stated, the government seems to think it is our master and that it can ignore the law with impunity. She also pointed the finger of blame upon Lois Lerner who sent a letter to Gerritson, illegally demanding more information before the IRS would grant the exemption. This was not an action by a few rogue agents located in one office. It was systemic and showed the IRS was playing political favorites by harassing citizens and groups who did not agree with the President's political ideology.

It's time for the people to clean house, starting with the IRS.

(H/T Althouse)

6/04/2013

Another Questions The Assumptions Of AGW

I find it interesting that too many of the AGW “We're-All-Gonna-DIE!” cultists choose to ignore the possibility that they're wrong, particularly in light of mounting evidence that the prognostications made by those like Mann, Hansen, Jones, and a host of others have failed to materialize.

They all see carbon dioxide as the enemy, either ignoring or ignorant of the fact that it is a very necessary trace gas, and one that appears to have little actual effect on Earth's surface temperatures. They assume that some CO2 level in the recent past (meaning the past 200 to 300 years) is the 'correct' concentration and that anything above that is dooming us all. Too bad that they're wrong.

Dr. Vincent Gray addresses the 'proper' level of CO2 by trying to show us that there is no proper level. It is a dynamic that, as must be stressed again and again, is a lagging indicator of temperature, not a leading one. He also proposes that the so-called energy balance put forth by the AGW faithful is flawed.

The idea promulgated by the IPCC that the energy received from the sun is instantly “balanced” by an equal amount returned to space, implies a dead world, from the beginning with no place for the vital role of carbon dioxide in forming the present atmosphere or for the development or maintenance of living organisms, or their ability to store energy or release it.

Increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide caused by return to the atmosphere of some of the gas that was once there promotes the growth of forests, the yield of agricultural crops and the fish, molluscs and coral polyps in the ocean.

Increase of Carbon Dioxide is thus wholly beneficial to “the environment” There is no evidence that it causes harm.

The last line of Gray's piece is correct. There is no evidence the increased levels have caused harm. It is conjecture, poorly thought out hypotheses, a climate boogeyman without a single shred of evidence that it is harmful. And as Gray has shown, CO2 concentrations have been many times higher than they are now but the Earth's temperatures were not correspondingly higher.

Some may reference 'experiments' shown on YouTube that supposedly prove that CO2 is a major greenhouse gas, but those experiments were flawed because they in no way replicated the actual conditions that exist (in one particular video they used a 100% CO2 atmosphere to show how it retains heat, a condition that does not exist here on Earth). A closed system such as they used gives us a false impression of what really happens, but they use it as the basis for their projections that unless we somehow cut back on all carbon emissions (an impossibility), that we're all doomed. They also haven't exactly told us how it is that they've come to the conclusion that a warmer Earth will be disastrous even though there's plenty of evidence that it won't be.

But then they never have to explain any of that. We're just supposed to take it on faith...just like they do.

6/02/2013

Thoughts On A Sunday

It's been a hot and humid weekend up here in the Lakes Region, with temps well into the 90's.

BeezleBub and I installed the air conditioners on Friday, staving off any issues with Deb about it being too hot. (She likes the heat...except when it comes sleeping, watching TV, reading, surfing the web, etc.) With the heat, most outdoor activities took place during the morning or late afternoon/early evening. (I was out mowing the lawn at 8:30 this morning, well before my 'usual' time in the late afternoon. I also did my dump run around 8 yesterday morning, getting there just after the dump opened for the day.)

Fortunately cooler weather moves in early tomorrow morning and we'll be back into the mid 70's and lower 80's for the week.

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One big event that took place over the weekend was the Tough Mudder competition at Gunstock Mountain Resort.

Tough Mudder events are hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie.

They expected over 12,000 participants which put Gunstock in a bind – they didn't have nearly enough parking for participants or spectators. So what did they do?

The rented the parking lots of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway over 20 miles away and bussed everyone in to the competition.

That made for a lot of bus traffic along the road leading to Gunstock. I mean a lot of bus traffic.

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I caught the first season marathon and season finale of BBC America's Orphan Black over the weekend. I found it to be interesting and entertaining.

It did bring up an interesting question about patents on biology, particularly sentient biology.

Talk about opening a can of worms...

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By way of Glenn Reynolds come this question being asked by the extreme-leftist UK newpaper, The Guardian: “Why are liberals so rude to the right?”

Reading the comments makes it quite clear that many of those on the left neither understand the Right's political viewpoints, nor do they want to. Quite a few of them also try to put up straw man arguments in defense of their incivility. And therein lies the danger because as time has passed they have come to see us as something less than people. When that happens it becomes more 'attractive” to deal with those they disagree with by more forceful means, including concentration camps and 're-education' centers. History has proven that more than once just in the past 100 years and there's nothing that say it won't happen again.

Ed Driscoll has his own take on the matter of civility.

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Eric The Viking links to and comments upon an AP story that is only a few years too late. If the press hadn't been carrying so much water for Obama, they would have reported earlier on the major downsides of ObamaCare, one of the biggest that a lot of people will end up with their insurance cancelled because of it.

The more this happens the more often we should replay Obama's claim that “we'd be able to keep our doctor and our insurance plan if we want to.” Yet another Obama promise is shown for what it is: a fabrication.

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Global hotcoldwetdry is at it again.

This time it's affecting the UK, specifically its spring, which has been one of the coldest in over 50 years and is causing havoc with farmers across Great Britain.

Is there nothing hotcoldwetdry cannot do?

(H/T Pirate's Cove)

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File this under This Is Just Stupid.

And people wonder why I am against zero-tolerance policies.

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The fact that the unemployment rate in the Eurozone has reached an all time high is not surprising to me. Considering the problems of stupid labor laws, a combined monetary unit without coordinated fiscal plans, and an increasing regulatory stranglehold by Brussels, is it any wonder their economy is in trouble?

What gets me is that there are people here in the US that believe we should be following the same path as Europe. All that proves to me is that they are truly ignorant about matters economic and shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a voting booth.

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And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the hot and humid weather is leaving, the summer folk are departing until next weekend, and where once again Monday has reappeared far too soon.

6/01/2013

Another Doctor Switches To Cash Only Practice

As the effects of ObamaCare come to be felt, more health care professionals are considering changes in their careers. Some have decided to pull the plug and leave practicing medicine, not wishing to become nothing more than a 'medicine factory' worker. Others are cutting back their hours. And some have taken a more direct action, deciding they aren't going to become part of the overly bureaucratic ObamaCare machine. Instead, they are restructuring their practices and turning to cash only operations. No longer with health insurance play any part of their practices, meaning they can shed themselves of the overhead and reams of paperwork that go with accepting health insurance. In the process they also find they can charge much less than charged under insurance and make just as much, if not more money.

I have posted about this a number of times in the past, seeing the trend as something that was more on the fringe. But now that trend has been accelerating and more physicians are going back to practicing medicine the way it used to be. One of the more recent defectors from the health insurance rat race is Dr. Michael Ciampi of South Portland, Maine.

Dr. Michael Ciampi took a step this spring that many of his fellow physicians would describe as radical.

The family physician stopped accepting all forms of health insurance. In early 2013, Ciampi sent a letter to his patients informing them that he would no longer accept any kind of health coverage, both private and government-sponsored. Given that he was now asking patients to pay for his services out of pocket, he posted his prices on the practice's website.

Before the switch, Ciampi had about 2,000 patients. He lost several hundred, he said. But the decision to do away with insurance allows Ciampi to practice medicine the way he sees fit, he said. Insurance companies no longer dictate how much he charges. He can offer discounts to patients struggling with their medical bills. He can make house calls.

“I’m freed up to do what I think is right for the patients,” Ciampi said. “If I’m providing them a service that they value, they can pay me, and we cut the insurance out as the middleman and cut out a lot of the expense.”

What most people don't realize is that doctors who accept health insurance as well as Medicare and Medicaid are severely restricted in regards how they can treat patients and how much time they can afford to spend with them. They have to constantly second guess the insurer or the government as to what treatments will and will not be covered. There's also a ton of paperwork that goes along with each patient seen. Most of that goes away once a doctor no longer accepts insurance.

Reading the multitude of comments made about the linked article, most are supportive of the good doctor's move. But a few slam him because all he's going to do is “treat the rich”. It's obvious these same folks didn't bother to go to the doctor's website to check his prices. If they had they would have found that for many of the routine services he charges less than the co-pay required from many of the insurance companies. It's obvious they think all health care should be free, meaning they shouldn't have to pay anything for their own health care. It's also obvious that they don't understand that 'free' health care is the most expensive health care. As always, government is an inefficient organization and the larger a project the government takes on the more inefficient it is. With health care being almost a sixth of our economy, we cannot expect efficiency, quality, or quantity of service. What costs a private operation a dollar will cost a government run operation two, three, four, or more dollars. How does that save anyone any money? It certainly doesn't help the taxpayers, does it?

Is it any wonder cash-only and concierge medical practices are becoming more popular? Who needs the hassles present (and future) medical practices impose upon patients? As the effects of ObamaCare become more obvious I think we'll see a lot more doctors refusing to accept insurance and will accept cash, period. In the end I believe it will actually reduce the costs of health care.